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  • Writer's pictureCaterina Sullivan

How do Corporate Sustainability and Consumer Trust Relate to One Another?

Updated: Nov 4, 2018

As we have discussed previously, consumers are looking increasingly towards businesses with values centred on sustainability and practices which consider the impact on the economy, on society and on the environment.

But can these sustainability practices actually build customer trust?

According to a study from California State University, sustainability practices have an impact on customer trust and loyalty. Not only that, but customer trust actually has a mediating effect on service recovery!

The reason behind this is simple: people trust people and organisations who do good things.

Here are some tips to increase customer trust through your sustainability practices:

1. Be genuine

There is nothing worse than a sustainability commitment which is just there to appease stakeholders. A sustainability commitment needs to come from values which are particular to each organisation.

2. Educate your team

To be effective, a business' sustainability commitment needs to be understood by all staff members. A corporate sustainability report published every 12 months will appeal to a select few people, but not all of your everyday consumers will read your sustainability report. I often will ask a staff members about their view on the business' sustainability commitment and practices and many of them do not know what the commitments or practices are. Oftentimes, they will have to check with a manager. To a consumer, this commitment to sustainability then seems to be a bit of a façade. As a consumer, I ask the question, if a business really valued sustainability, wouldn't all their staff members understand exactly what their commitments and practices are?

3. Practice what you preach

It is not use saying your business has a commitment to gender equality if you have no women in your organisation and do not provide flexible working conditions for families. A sustainability commitment with no action does not increase customer trust. However, actions which back-up sustainability commitments can go a long way in improving customer trust. It is important these actions are communicated just as much as the values, if not more, in order for consumers to see and understand that you mean business when it comes to the longevity of our economy, our society and our planet!

4. Work collaboratively

Working in partnerships with organisations is a fantastic way to build customer trust, especially if the other organisations are reputable. These organisations can include other businesses, NGOs, community groups or even educational institutions, as long as they also value sustainability. Not only are partnerships included in the Global Goals as Goal 17, they allow you to reach a new customer base as well by tapping into other organisations' networks. Working collaboratively means you can share resources and come up with fantastic new ideas, creating an even bigger impact.

5. Ask for and take on feedback

Lastly, it is important that you are asking your consumer base what they think of your commitments and practices when it comes to sustainability. Being able to have this open and honest dialogue is a fantastic way to build customer trust. However, it is even more important to take the feedback on board; otherwise, customers will think you are asking for their feedback just to appease them, which can actually hinder your progress towards customer trust.


If you think customer trust is important in your business and want to start exploring how to develop your sustainability strategy to maximise this trust, contact us today!

This article was originally published on the Strategic Sustainability Consultants website.

#sustainablystrategic #corporatesocialresponsibility

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